Whimpering Resurgence

Convenience Ultimately Wins the Day


Last week I had the opportunity to be a special guest at an annual music industry event in Los Angeles, California. The event is called “Making Vinyl” (http://makingvinyl.org). And as the name suggests, the event is all about records.

Believe it or not, people are still putting music out on vinyl. And according to people in the know, vinyl is on the verge of outselling CDs for the first time since the 1980s.

There were several hundred people at the event and passion was high.

Among other things, there was an award ceremony for the best artwork, best packaging, labels, recording, etc. for the year. As a vinyl enthusiast myself, it was fun to see all of the incredible things that are happening with records in the music world today.

But I wasn’t invited to talk about records. I was there to talk about the future of cassette tapes.

Cassettes have shown up in pop culture in recent years. The Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies have featured cassettes prominently. And the term “mix tape” has found its way back into the vernacular. So there is some hopeful discussion in the industry that cassettes may have a resurgence too.

But I also wasn’t there to talk about the resurgence, in a way I was the one person representing the death of the cassette. I told someone in the hallway that my company, Audiomover, was the flower growing out of the ashes of the cassette industry.

I can’t imagine the cassette tape ever coming back in any significance. I think the same is likely try of vinyl. I don’t say that with happiness or glee, it’s just that the masses have spoken; and it shouldn’t be a surprise. A principle that we all understand is at play here. It’s the principle of convenience.

Forum after forum during this event I watched and listened to vendors, industry professionals, and artists discussing the growth of the vinyl industry. But sadly, in my estimation, it will likely peak right where it is. The fact that LPs are going to outsell CDs is only partly because LPs are becoming more popular, It's certainly also because CDs themselves are becoming less and less popular.

CDs are disappearing for the same reasons that LPs and cassettes disappeared.

No matter how much people enjoy the tangible nature of records, tapes or CDs, no matter how much people love the feeling of ownership, it is all outweighed by convenience.

I heard a quote from Gary Vaynerchuck that seemed to have application here, “Uber became a huge company by selling time, not transportation.”

The desire for time and convenience is exactly why the music industry has changed so dramatically. Interacting with an LP, a tape and even a CD is clunky. When you put on an LP you are limited to those songs. If you want to change, you need to get out another record. You might not even own a record with the song you want to hear. Every step takes effort; it is the definition of inconvenience. These same things are true with cassettes and CDs.

And beyond that there is the factor of wasting money. I have at least 500 albums in my collection that I bought because of one song where, unfortunately, the rest of the LP ended up being terrible.

Although I have great nostalgia for the days of buying and listening to LPs, ultimately I don’t miss it. That’s not to say I won’t buy hundreds more in the coming years, I probably will. But I am also part of the masses who love simplicity and convenience. And when dealing with the masses, there is very little that can overcome that.

When considering what makes a business, or a product successful, the factors of time and convenience are undeniable forces. In it’s own way even stores like Wal-Mart use this principle. You can find almost anything you need in your life in that one store under one roof. And it’s close by so you can have it right now.

This principle remains true even when one product is better quality than another; convenience will almost always win. LPs and CDs for example, are actually higher quality audio than MP3s, but they were all crushed by the convenience of modern digital media.

If you are starting a business or creating a product, time and convenience should be front and center in your plan. Meeting those fundamental desires of your customers can make all the difference.